History III

Restoration work in progress during 2010.
Restoration work in progress during 2010.

Following the 7th Duke’s death it was no longer possible for the Richmond and Gordon family to maintain all its previous financial commitments.  This meant that Gordon Chapel was left without a Rector and with a very uncertain future.  During this difficult period the chapel was fortunate to have the services of the Reverend Clarence Wolfe who was Warden and Chaplain of the Orphanage at Aberlour (as well as being Rector there).  Mr Wolfe, a man of tireless energy, helped out at Fochabers whenever he could; clergy from Holy Trinity in Elgin also assisted but Dean Wolfe (he was appointed Dean of the Diocese in 1946) continued to oversee Gordon Chapel until 1960.

In 1935, a worse fate befell the estate.  The death of the 8th Duke, only seven years after his father, meant that the Gordon Lennox family were faced with heavy death duties.  The 9th Duke took the reluctant decision to sell the Scottish estates and concentrate the family’s holdings on Goodwood.  The Chapel was among the ‘miscellaneous properties’ included in the sale.  It was purchased by the Crown Estates Commissioner.  Mr Wolfe managed to maintain regular worship until the outbreak of the Second World War.  However, the chapel was closed during hostilities and, like Gordon Castle itself, had, at one point, troops billeted in it.

After the War, the Crown Estates Commissioners proposed to sell it as a cinema.  Fortunately, this did not happen thanks largely to the tenacity of Miss Bruce, Mrs Brander and Mrs Etheldreda Baxter and her husband, William, the daughter-in-law and son of the founders of W.A. Baxter and Sons.  William and Etheldreda Baxter were faithful members of the remnants of the Episcopal congregation in Fochabers.  The purchase of the chapel finally came about in 1950 thanks in part to the financial assistance of the Dunderdale Trust.  In 1956, the Reverend Michael Wolfe (son of Dean Wolfe) became first Rector-in-Residence.

Various alterations were carried out both to the chapel itself and to the rectory flat.  The chapel’s relationship with the Gordon Lennox family was also renewed with the purchase of the Castle and policies by Sir George Gordon Lennox.  Sir George and his wife were regular worshippers at the chapel.  Sir George is commemorated in the St Andrew’s window.

In December 2004, a new era for Gordon Chapel opened when Revd. Alison Simpson became Priest-in-Charge.  Alison was also Rector of the Isla-Deveron Group (covering Keith, Huntly and Aberchirder).  In the late summer of 2009, Alison left to take up the charge of Rector in Nairn.  For a year, until December 2010, Gordon Chapel was served by two interim priests, the husband and wife team of David and Loma Balfour.  During their tenure,  Gordon Chapel underwent a major programme of restoration (including re-harling the entire building and a new roof).  This was funded through a generous bequest from Robert and Jean Pringle.  Services in the main church resumed in December 2010 when the Reverend Frances Forshaw became the Mission Priest for the East of the Diocese, resident in Gordon Chapel.  The congregation has been delighted to welcome Frances and her husband James to the Rectory.

Despite the vicissitudes of the last one hundred and seventy years, Gordon Chapel is today home to a strong and devoted congregation.  It is a place of beauty and peace, proud of its history and its traditions but one which confidently looks forward to the future.